Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

You’re never too old to try something new: 6 people who found fame for a late-in-life passion

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You’re never too old to try something new: 6 people who found fame for a late-in-life passion

by Faith McNamara

1. Charles Darwin

Yes, THE Charles Darwin. He wasn’t truly recognised for his work until he was 50 years old, with his publication of “On the Origin of Species”. Before that, he was just a plain old scientist who was a little too interested in nature. Only after he was able to compile his experiments and findings into a theoretical text, did it all mean something. And now his research is the basis of most biological theories.

So if you have something you’ve been interested in for a while but thought it was a bunch of nothing - try collecting it in some way. For example, my grandad used to collect stamps and now we have bounds of stamps in collection books - some of which are worth a bit of money! Dig out your old passions and collections and turn something incomprehensible into something new and exciting.

2. Julia Child

Who hasn’t heard of Julia Child?! (I hadn’t before the Meryl Streep film). She’s a well-loved icon who transformed the world of cooking in America.

To impress her husband, whom she met a little later than her peers, Julia learnt how to cook French and Italian dishes, as she knew the way to her man’s heart was through his stomach. But before that she cared little about fine dining, opting for the more efficient frozen foods.

Julia Child didn’t gain recognition as a chef until she appeared on television at the age of 51! She had her own cooking show that began in 1963, called ‘The French Chef’, influencing wives across America to try something new.

So why not try something new yourself? I decided recently that if I like cheesecake so much why don’t I try and make it? Though it came out a little misshapen and looked quite ugly - it tasted great, even better knowing it was made with my own hands with oodles of love put into it. Why not try cooking or baking a food favourite of your own?

3. Colonel Sanders

If you’re a fried chicken fan, this little tidbit might surprise you! Harland Sanders always loved making fried chicken for his friends and family. He even started going door to door passing out crispy goodness to his neighbours. Eventually, he got his own place and started selling it.

However, it wasn’t until he was 62 years old that he made his favourite food into a franchise. The fast-food giant KFC! He later sold it at 74 for 2 million dollars and, I imagine, enjoyed the fruits (or chicken) of his labour! His face is still attached to the brand long after he has passed.

Do you have a passion you enjoy sharing with your friends and family? My nanna is really good at knitting. For years, we all enjoyed what she made us. I encouraged her to set up a shop on Etsy and now she makes amazing products that ship across the world. She just turned 71! It’s never too late to share your passion with the world.

4. Anna Mary Robertson Moses

Anna Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, showed that even after living a hard life, you can still create art that speaks to you and other people.

Anna laboured on a farm for most of her life. Being a farm wife was difficult, as she also raised 5 children and sold homemade goods for extra money. It was only at the age of 78 that she picked up a paintbrush, after arthritis meant needlework and embroidery were no longer an option as an artistic outlet.

She painted rural scenes of the country, embroiled with happiness and nostalgia, she purposefully omitted signs of modern industrialisation so it reflected her childhood. She lived to 101 years old and enjoyed a very successful career as an artist, with one of her paintings selling for 2 million dollars!

Why not try to paint a memory of your childhood? It doesn’t have to be good or sell for lots of money, it can be filled with colours and faces of the past. This is an especially good idea for those suffering from dementia, just like a memory, these paintings don’t have to be accurate, just filled with love, care, and colour.

5. Gladys Burrill

Feel like getting your running shoes on? Me neither. But Gladys had other ideas. At 86 years old she took up marathon running. I wouldn’t even dream of doing that now! She was known in the local newspaper as the “Gladyator” but friends called he Glady due to her upbeat attitude.

She broke the world record for ‘The Oldest Female Marathon Finisher’, after completing the Honolulu marathon in 2010, taking her nearly 10 hours! Her record-breaking finish only happened after 2 failed attempts but she kept training and trying.

She always said “It’s so important to think positive. It’s easy to get discouraged and be negative.” So why not try getting up and moving today? Do a little bit of Yoga, or go for a calm swim at the local sports centre. Getting up and moving has been proven to improve mood. Get up, get outside and move - though I’m not expecting you to be the next marathon runner.

6. Harry Bernstein

Stories are what make us unique, they build the foundation of our whole inner world! At the age of 93, Harry Bernstein decided to write the story of his young life as a jew in Northern England, ‘ The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers’. He gained notoriety after it was published in 2007 when he was 96.

Harry famously said “The first 25 years of my life are something I would rather forget, but the contrary has taken place. The older I get the more alive those years have become.” He went on to write and publish 3 more books until his death at 101 years old.

So if you have any burning memories or stories about you or your life, why not try writing them? You can either follow Mr Bernstein’s example and author a novel or simply start journaling to commit them to paper. Either way, you should share your writing with those around you, You could even start a writing group and read your work aloud.

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